Outdoor Party Planning Tips
Have you ever heard it said that food tastes better when eaten outdoors? Why not host an outdoor event and find out. Here are some tips to help with your outdoor entertaining.
An outdoor setting is great for any gathering of friends, family, neighbors or work associates and can be used for graduation parties, weddings, baby or bridal showers, company picnics, reunions or even neighborhood block parties.
Where To Entertain?
- In your own backyard or front yard
- At a park, playground or zoo
- At a lake or river
- In a parking lot
- At a public garden
- At the beach
Tip: Always have a backup plan in case the weather doesn't cooperate. Have the picnic in a screened in or covered porch, under a tent or canopy, or use a recreation center in a park.
Bugs, Flies & Other Critters
While the kids might think that marching ants are cute, it's hard to find an outdoor site that's bug-free. Try to spray the area for insects several hours before your guests arrive so the smell of insecticide doesn't linger in the air. If mosquitoes are in the air, have a can of mosquito repellant nearby.
Dining by Candlelight
There is something magical about a party under the stars. Here are a few ideas to make it more special.
- Stringing tiny white lights in a few trees around the garden creates an enchanted look. Or try perching votive candles in glass holders on tree branches.
- Citronella candle pots or torches are beautiful and practical. They help keep the insects away and look great. Because of their distinct smell, keep them away from food.
- Don't forget to illuminate steps and steep paths, especially at night. Luminaries do the job while adding to the festive atmosphere.
A theme will provide focus and pull together all the aspects of your party. Besides a Mexican Fiesta, Hawaiian Luau, or a traditional Barbecue, here are some other great ideas for an outdoor party.
|Garden Party |
|Add dry flowers petals to the invitation envelope or decorate with floral stamps and stickers. |
|Choose a floral print pattern for the plates and napkins; mix in solid color cutlery, cups and table cover. |
|For place cards, take a small flower pot and plant seedlings. Label the pot with the name of the seedling and the guest's name. Tie a ribbon around it. |
|Pool or Beach Party |
|Create fun and unique invitations by using different items that you can mail, such as a sun block sample (found in drug stores), a pair of sunglasses, or a sun visor. Details of the party can be written on the visor. |
|Decorate with 'grass-look' umbrella covers and decorative palm trees. |
|Fill a child's pool with ice to chill soft drinks. |
|Use colorful, disposable plates, cups and cutlery to save on clean-up time and for safety. A beach pail makes a great utensil holder at the end of a buffet. |
|Activities can include a land surfing contest, water balloon fight, bubble blowing contest, volleyball, badminton, croquet or sidewalk chalk drawing. |
|July 4th |
|Roll invitations inside mini flags and mail in an envelope or patriotic colors. Fill with red, white and blue confetti. |
|Decorate your table with patriotic printed plates, napkins, and table covers. Mix in solid color cups and cutlery. Add American flag picks to a cheese tray or to hors d'oeuvres. |
|Decorate with red, white and blue balloons. Tie red, white and blue bows and streamers around trees. |
Neighborhood Block Party Tips
Every summer some neighborhoods block off their street to provide an opportunity to get to know each other better and have a good time. This celebration can include anything from a potluck supper to an elegant sit down candlelit dinner. Most are holiday oriented, celebrating Memorial Day, Independence Day, or National Night Out. Some consist of a theme such as the ones previously mentioned. Here's how to go about planning your neighborhood block party.
- Create a planning committee (as well as subcommittees in charge of food, activities, clean-up, publicity and decorations.)
- Set up a meeting to discuss theme ideas, dates, food, entertainment and costs.
- Call the local police department to get permission to block off the street during the party.
- Create appealing flyers announcing the date and details of the party - hand deliver to your neighbors.
- Create ice breakers to help get neighbors to mingle.
- Have a cookie baking contest or a hat contest and give prizes for the top three winners.
- Have a host or moderator of your event.
- Pipe in music.
- Announceany items important to the association or the neighborhood.
- Allow anywhere from 8 weeks to 3 months to plan the event.
Plan a kick-off parade - Invite the neighborhood kids to proudly present their bikes and wagons decorated with streamers, balloons, bows and ribbons.
Show off the pets - Have a parade or a Best of Show. Have prizes for the Happiest Dog, Funniest Fish, Shyest Cat and so on.
Record the event - Have someone take photos or provide disposable cameras for everyone to use. Afterwards, have prints made of the best shots and send them to your guests in theme frames.
Food Safety and Storage for Outdoor Entertaining
Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. You've heard it a hundred times, yet we cannot stress enough the importance of safe food handling. Cold foods need to be stored at 40 degrees F or below - even in the cooler - and hot foods need to be kept above 140 degrees F.
Mayonnaise is NOT the food poisoning villain people think it is. Its high acid content from lemon juice and vinegar actually reduces bacterial growth. Ingredients such as eggs, meats and potatoes (when combined with mayo) are what spoil quickly.
Serve grilled foods immediately. Place cooked foods on clean plates that were not used to transport raw meat or seafood. Perishable foods should be eaten within two hours, or one hour, if the air temperature is over 90 degrees F.
Bottles of water (non-carbonated) serve double duty. When frozen, they keep the cooler cold and when thawed, are great to drink. Before freezing, pour out a small amount of water to allow for expansion.
Deli take-out food should be eaten within two hours or purchase. Otherwise, chill well before packing them into the cooler.
Discard leftovers that have been sitting out for more than an hour or two. If the ice has melted in the cooler, discard perishables.
Smart Party Tips
- To reinforce a paper plate, tape it down to a solid color 10 1/4" plastic plate with double stick tape.
- Caution female guests not to wear spike heels to an outdoor event. The heels may sink into the grass or cause wearers to trip.
- Make sure there is ample seating and shade for ill or elderly guests, or those with sun-sensitive skin.
- Always locate food stations, guest seating and reception lines in the shade, under a tent or canopy if necessary.
- Have on hand sun screen and mosquito repellant.
- If at the beach, bring extra beach towels, rattan beach mats, sunglasses, beach toys such as rafts, balls and frisbees, and bandanna.
Print out our Party Checklist.